Tuesday, February 09, 2010

lessons learned


I have to begin with a disclaimer. I was glad that the Saints won the Superbowl. Now, I don't have a particular commitment to the Saints. I'm a Steelers fan through and through. And in general, I don't dislike the Colts, but this year they really got under my skin. There they were, well on the way to a perfect season and they threw it away. They saw themselves as unbeatable and weighed the risks of a key player getting hurt while chasing after a perfect season vs. winning the Superbowl. They chose to win the Superbowl... only they didn't.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, I have always been a Steelers fan but I have never seen them play. Tickets are virtually impossible to get and if you can get one from a scalper, they are prohibitively expensive. I found myself imagining the die-hard Colts fan fantasizing about the perfect season, finding a scalper with a seat for sale way up in the nosebleed section for $500. She buys the ticket thinking she will see history... and the team decides not to play. The best players all sit on the bench and the game is way less exciting than the high school game she watched on Friday night. Indeed, the cynicism of the Colts' management removed any joy there might have been. Multiply that lone fan by hundreds or thousands of others and you can begin to see why I'm disgusted at the Colts. I understand the strategy... but it didn't work. You don't play it safe in football. Players get injured. It is part of the game. So, either play football or don't. Do what you can to make the game as safe as possible but either play or don't. And if you aren't going to play, don't charge the fans to watch it.

Then look at the Saints. Nobody expected them to win. Manning's offense is just too good. They went in though and let loose. They took chances - going for a touchdown from the 4 yard line and not getting it when a field goal was a given; kicking an on-side kick to begin the second half which did work. They took chances and went for it all while the Colts had characterized themselves as a team that took the safe and easy path. The Colts lost.

Growing up in the Steelers Nation, the football metaphor is as natural as breathing. This one is clear. Take the chance, go for it all, and you may just get it. The Saints did. Play it safe, allow what is in your grasp to fall away while looking to something that may not materialize, and you end up with nothing. The Colts did.

I'm not entirely sure how to apply that metaphor to my life or to my church's life, but it sure feels important to wrestle with it. I know it easily could have gone the other way and folk would be talking about foolish risks vs. sound strategy. I prefer the outcome we have.

1 comment:

Michael Mahoney said...

Good thoughts, Roy, and I'm sure you'll find the appropriate metaphor in there.

As an interesting note, I'll remind you of the 2007 Patriots season. Belichick was vilified in the press for putting the starters in for game 16, when they had already clinched. He was chasing the perfect season, they said, instead of focusing on the bog prize. The New York sports press in particular (read: Pats haters) crucified the guy for a week for risking Brady for his "ego." Seems like a case of "damned if you do, damned if you don't."